It starts with a dream. Mine was the dream of changing the world for Jesus Christ.
Enter inspiration. This comes from a different direction—a photo in a coffee table book. It is a photo of Turkish women sitting in a courtyard, weaving rugs together. It reminds me of sitting in a similar circle in Taos, knitting with a group of women, talking, laughing, storytelling, totally relaxed and receptive to each woman’s contribution to the conversation. We speak of families, friends, politics, and our differing spiritual beliefs.
The photo of the Turkish women overlaps onto my memory of Taos. I am suddenly transported to Turkey, sitting in the midst of these foreign women, talking about their lives, their livelihoods, and, as the conversation deepens, their beliefs…and mine.
Lightening strikes! Inspiration collides with my dream. Could this dream of changing the world for Jesus be accomplished by sitting in a circle of women who are making rugs to sell and support their families?
How simple. How natural. How profound.
I know you have a dream too. You long to connect with the African women gathered at the village well. You desire to reach into the lives of the Russian women living in your gray concrete apartment building. Your heart aches as you pass by poor, distressed Indian women, making desperate choices in order to provide for the little children clinging to their saris. As the poor come knocking at your door each day, you have tough choices to make. Instead of deciding whether or not to give them what they are asking for, perhaps my dream could collide with yours. Together, perhaps we could offer them something more sustainable and life-giving.
Enter the Proverbial Woman
Now enter that pesky Proverbs 31 woman. Well, that is the way I have always seen her—I felt she was every Christian woman’s excuse for being busy. Now, as I take a fresh look at her and see her in whole new light, she gives me inspiration to take this idea first to my stateside friends. Turns out, it is an easy ‘sell.’ Microenterprise is a hot topic in both secular and church circles in the United States. Eyes light up, enthusiasm is expressed, and life-purposes come into focus for these stateside women who seem ripe and ready to give back to a needy global community.
As a global worker woman, you are already in this needy global community. By now, you are probably asking yourself this question, Why should I enter the lives of national women through the marketplace? My response to you: because the Proverbs 31 woman inspires us to do so! I turn her back to you, with a bit of a twist, and say, “Use this proverbial woman as a model for the women you came to serve.” What she models for you, she can model for all women:
* She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (v.7).
* She sees that her trading is profitable (v.18).
* She makes fine linen garments and sells them (v. 24).
* And, at the end of the day, she is called blessed (v.28).
Could the Proverbs 31 entrepreneurial woman be the appropriate platform for entering into the lives of the national women you desire to reach for Christ?
Introducing HOPE of the Harvest
Women of the Harvest thinks so. That is why we have created a new arm of ministry called HOPE of the Harvest [HOPE]. The mission of HOPE is to encourage women in cross-cultural service to enter the lives of impoverished women worldwide through a door of hope—microenterprise. (We define microenterprise as the granting of small loans to women wanting to start a business.) When the loan application is approved, there are two ways the HOPE loans can be funded. One avenue is through available funds. The other is through an online sponsorship opportunity, called Doors of HOPE on the WOTH website, where the public is invited to participate in funding the hopes of indigenous women globally.
HOPE is comprised of stateside Christian women volunteering their expertise, time, and finances to support the mission and goals of this endeavor. Just as you are ‘called’ to missions, so the women of HOPE are compelled by the Lord to connect with you in a synergistic partnership, inviting you to join us in offering this door of hope to an unbelieving and impoverished world.
The HOPE of the Harvest goal is two-fold:
1) finance and support a woman’s capacity to solve her own economic problems through microenterprise; and
2) validate her worth by tangibly demonstrating Christ’s love, grace, and mercy to her through a mentoring relationship with a global worker woman.
The Global worker Woman Makes HOPE Unique
What makes HOPE of the Harvest uniquely different from the other microenterprise programs out there? We believe the difference is in you, the global worker woman—you will initiate all loans. By living in the culture, we believe you can open the door of microenterprise in a way that will make sense to needy women. The strength of this approach is based on your ongoing relationship with the women you serve. Motivated by Christ’s love, we know you are invested in seeing these women succeed in all areas of their lives. It is not primarily about the microenterprise process; HOPE is placing the emphasis on relationship, woman to woman, woman to Christ. It is about offering women a door of hope, and you walking through it with them.
HOPE is focusing on granting loans to groups of women, called Circles of HOPE. It is our desire that microenterprise will lead to the formation of ‘communities’ where women will joyfully gather to receive support on many levels—business coaching, Bible study, spiritual discipleship, camaraderie, and friendship. One of the aspects of the HOPE micro-loan program is a 12-session Bible study focusing on biblical character and Christ-centered business principles. So while ‘your women’ pursue a livelihood, they are gathering together, under your leadership, learning about the Lord too…and that is the hope of the harvest! (Although Circle of HOPE group loans are a great way to do a microenterprise venture, we also encourage applying for just one individual loan too.)
HOPE has set up criteria (see sidebar) for the prospective global worker woman and national woman who desires to be involved in the HOPE micro-loan program. We want you to have a clear picture of what is required and what you can expect by way of support from the HOPE Team. Global worker women engaged with HOPE are in an advocacy, mentoring role; they are not personally liable for the repayment of the loan.
A [fictional] Story of HOPE
How does the micro-loan process actually work?
Remember my circle of Turkish women which I envision myself sitting with? My dream continues… As we are talking one day, one of the women tells me that if they could purchase their rug wool in bulk, they could make a better profit, thus better enabling them to send their children to school. They barely scrape by on the profits of selling one rug at a time, and getting the $250 needed to buy their first bulk order collectively has been out of their reach.
I love these women and have been praying that the Lord would be able to infiltrate their lives through my life. Remembering the article I read in the WOTH onlineMagazine, I submit my request to [email protected] and receive a basic business book (thank goodness, because I am clueless about business!). HOPE instructs me to meet with these women for three sessions to go over the information and see if they want to participate.
After I successfully complete the ‘pre-qualification’ phase, I fill out the loan application online on behalf of my Turkish ladies at www.womenoftheharvest.com. I get excited as I write out the women’s stories and needs. This micro-loan could really bring hope into a situation that usually remains hopeless for women in my village. I hit SEND, and off my application goes into cyberspace.
The next day, I get an email from HOPE of the Harvest, saying they received my application and that they will be reviewing it. So I wait and continue to meet with the women going over the Basics of Business and Bible Study lessons. Meanwhile, something seems to be happening in this group of women…there is a lightness to the feel of the group as they gather to weave. I hear more laughter in their conversations. And they keep asking if I have heard yet from HOPE.
“What have I done?” I ask myself. “What if HOPE doesn’t accept my dear group and all this lightness turns to disappointment?” I pray and tell my ladies that I am praying on their behalf too.
Five days before the scheduled HOPE meeting, I receive an email from a member of the HOPE Team. My application is incomplete. She encouragingly tells me to get some added information and a photo of the ladies before the meeting. She assures me that it is the desire of the HOPE Team to see each applicant succeed. I do the needed work, hit SEND again, and wait.
Oh, happy day, when I receive the notification that the micro-loan has been approved! The email is sent by a woman on the HOPE Team who introduces herself as my HOPE Advocate throughout this endeavor. She will be praying for my new ‘Circle of HOPE’ and will be available to coach, encourage, and support me as I, in turn, do the same for ‘my women.’ Within one week, the $250 has been wired to me. With the help of my HOPE Team Advocate, we set up the loan repayment process. It is a relief to know that I will not be directly responsible for the repayment of the loan.
Oh, happier day, when ‘my women’ hear the good news! We meet the next day, form a circle again, and dive into the first of the twelve lessons of HOPE. As I bring the lesson to them, I have made it one they can understand because I understand the culture in which they live. My heart rejoices at the thought of this time together, closing our ‘Circle of HOPE’ in prayer to my heavenly Father. My hope is that, as time goes on, He will be theirs too.
An Opportunity of HOPE…is it for YOU?
Could Hope of the Harvest be an answer to your dream of reaching the women in the global community in which you live? We HOPE so! We see microenterprise as a door of hope for you, the woman in cross-cultural service—a door to open and walk through with the national women in your life. With this opportunity of HOPE, not only will you be providing access to a once prohibitive marketplace, you will also be able to offer them the true riches that can be found only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And that is the HOPE of the harvest!